Critical WordPress Plugin Bug Was Ignored By Developers

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Any website using the Custom Contact Forms plugin should apply a patch as soon as possible

The WordPress Security team had to step in this week after developers of the popular Custom Contact Forms plugin ignored warnings that a critical vulnerability in their software could let an attacker take complete control of a website.

US cyber security specialist Sucuri says it had contacted the plugin’s development team to disclose the vulnerability “a few weeks ago” but received no reply. On Monday, the plugin was finally patched.

“Due to the unresponsive nature of the development team, we’d encourage you to pursue other sources for your WordPress form needs. There are various options with developers that are very responsive and are actively concerned with your security needs. The most common and popular ones would obviously be JetPack and Gravity Forms,” wrote Marc-Alexandre Montpas, a spokesman for Sucuri.

Responsible disclosure

Custom Contact Forms has been downloaded 600,000 times, and is actively used by thousands of websites and blogs. Its development is managed by Taylor Lovett, a web engineer and open source enthusiast with a long history of contributing to WordPress.

Hacker (c) thailerderden10, Shutterstock 2014According to Sucuri, the vulnerability in the Custom Contact Forms plugin allows an attacker to download and modify the website’s WordPress database remotely without the need for authentication. It affects any website that’s using any version of the plugin released before Monday.

It seems that after being contacted by WordPress Security, Lovett had finally decided to patch his project. The previous version of the plugin was released 16 months ago.

“That vulnerability has been patched as of a few days ago. Also Custom Contact Forms will have a major release in the coming months. The plugin is being completely rebuilt and will be awesome,” Lovett told TechWeekEurope.

“Proofpoint researchers regularly see cybercriminals targeting vulnerabilities in third party WordPress plugins because many sites run old, vulnerable versions,” commented Mark Sparshott, EMEA director at Proofpoint.

“This is especially true for small businesses who typically pay a third party to create their website and host it, but do not realise that thereafter the owner is often responsible for logging in as the site admin and installing any available updates.”

In such cases, Proofpoint recommends that small business owners contact the company responsible for creation or hosting of their website and ask them to configure ‘Automatic Background Updates’ for WordPress. This way Core, Plugin, Theme and Translation File updates will be applied automatically as soon as they are available, greatly reducing the risk of compromise.

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